Greetings and welcome back to Journeys! For the first month of 2021 we will be exploring the Dragon, otherwise known as the North and South Nodes of the Moon.
For Valentina & all the Critters
I have previously written about the Dragon in my book and in this journal. In this article I will be explaining some of my thinking when it comes to interpreting the Dragon within the context of the chart as a whole, including its signs and rulers, its temples and its aspects.
THE LIGHT EATER
These two points are always exactly opposite one another in the zodiac and move in a retrograde motion backwards through the signs, sometimes turning to direct motion for a short while. They take about 18 years to traverse all 12 signs, meaning they take about 1.5 years to move through each sign. For those interested, this 18 year cycle is around the same time it takes Jupiter to oppose itself twice and for the progressed Moon to move 2/3 of the way around the zodiac, placing it in the same Element as the one our Moon was in when we were born, connecting our awareness of the nodes to our teens as we become aware of our personality and our Jupiter traits through puberty, adolescence and early adulthood.
As I have written before, the simplest way to understand the nodes is that they are where an eclipse would occur if both Sun and Moon were at those places (meaning if both Sun and Moon are near the nodes you were born near or during a solar or lunar eclipse, but not necessarily one that was visible where you were born). They represent a place in the sky where an alignment of Sun, Moon and Earth can produce an eclipse. However the nodes are a pair, always opposite one another in the zodiac, and thus represent polarisation as well as a blending of the Sun, Moon and Earth.
As a product, then, of the Lights and the Earth, both of the nodes have something to say about our earthly consciousness, about the integration of spirit, soul and body, the mental, astral and physical awareness, and the overall agenda we have in coming to a physical form. In astrology this gives them a broad symbolic meaning which is a blend of all three and which connects with how earthly perspective can eclipse awareness of living an illuminated life, as well as the process we have to go through to ground the magic of the eclipse, bringing the power of our own inner light of being into perfect alignment with the now moment. We enter into existence with an intention to fully share our inner light, to ground it in the material and physical universe, but a churning entanglement with physical experience can and indeed does overshadow our awareness of this inner light. This is the wisdom of the Dragon.
The Dragon overall is a nexus in which the matrix of our being encounters the flow of meaning and significance. Yet as a polarized being with a Head and Tail that are separated the Dragon calls for integration and balance of some kind. The Head must be connected to the Tail via a stomach, an organ capable of digesting what is consumed and turning it into raw fuel. This stomach is us, or more accurately the entity at the centre of the chart. We are tasked with the challenge of becoming the critical third point in the Dragons existence, that which gives it a specific meaning and significance, the observer who witnesses the eclipse. The Dragon is therefore one of the keys astrology offers us in terms of the magical equilibrium and the resolution of what we can call karma, the ongoing drama of cause and effect. With the South Node or Dragons Tail we are dealing with things that are deeply significant and with which we have a profound psychological identification complex, with the sum of the causes we are dealing with in this lifetime, the things we must move away from, while with the North Node or Dragons Head we are dealing with things that are profoundly meaningful for our psychological growth, the things we must move towards, the effects we are better off cultivating and generating.
In practical terms the astrology surrounding the Tail is an abundance of experience but this abundance has led to dependence and an imbalance towards seeing life in a particular way that is now confining (the Tail is a constrictor). For example if the Tail is in an Earth sign it indicates that we come in with a significant Earth connection of some kind which now limits us. We will therefore have a great deal of connection to that way of being, but in ways that have become or will show themselves to be problematic. For example the aforementioned person with the Tail in an Earth sign may be too conventional or rely too heavily upon the status quo and will therefore tend to have issues getting stuck, being left behind, etc. The issue is essentially that we have become too used to that way of doing things and now have to move on. Of course, we get to keep all of that experience and knowledge, but we don’t actually get a benefit from it in the same way anymore. Usually we will benefit from it more when we give it away to others and not when we use it to move forward with our own goals or situations. However this is generally not easy because we are so comfortable living in that space and being that way, so comfortable in fact that we may not even notice that it is a problem, and we incarnate without an awareness that we have chosen to break these particular habits. It is invisible. We bump into it all the time, but we never see its face so it remains ambiguous and spectral, unlike the presence of Saturn which is always concrete and up front about the discipline it wants to instill. Saturn is a wall, but the Tail disappears into rabbit holes and is only rarely seen sliding around the corner from the edge of vision. Its cloak of invisibility (you only see the Dragon during an eclipse) lends it a Neptunian edge.
The Head on the other hand is the way out of that situation for us, the kind of attitude and experience we must seek in order to break out of the rut we have blindly fallen into. However we won’t have the same kind of experience in this area and therefore it will not feel as comfortable and we will have to make more of an effort to try things that way. The invisibility of the Dragon translates here as our blindness or ignorance of the nutritional astral benefits of a particular approach. The Head is something we have to chew over. It is hungry for more and its belly is us, but we lack the appetite for it while in the coils of the Tail.
LEVELS OF SYMMETRY
Here is where the symmetry of the Dragon starts to reveal its design. The person with the Tail in an Earth sign will have the Head in a Water sign, showing that the way out is to connect with the world of feelings and emotions, probably because all that focus on the material world has cut us off from them. A Water Tail will always have an Earth Head to guide it out of the emotional complexities it has become drowned in. Fire and Air pair the same way, representing a pattern of impulsiveness and spontaneity versus a pattern of calculated planning and thought. These represent the binary/primary karmic patterns being dealt with by the Dragon:
Electric Dragon, or Fire/Air Head & Tail: This Dragon focuses on the balance between development of the will vs. development of the intellect, impulse vs. calculation, self vs. society.
Magnetic Dragon, or Water/Earth Head & Tail: This Dragon focuses on the balance between development of the feelings vs. development of practicality, emotion vs. pragmatism, complexity vs. simplicity.
If Saturn (another universal indicator of karma) then finds itself in a sign that has the same Element as the Head or Tail, indications are very clear about where the soul is in hard labour. Conjunctions of Saturn with the nodal axis are therefore indicators of people who have chosen to deal with a lot of heavy baggage and who may have to work much harder to attain a healthy relationship with the Element – but the rewards are greater. In the aforementioned example of the Tail in Taurus, a conjunction with Saturn could well indicate someone who has become severely and chronically entrenched in materialism and conservative values, for example.
Of course its not just the Elements that the Head and Tail are in that polarize, it’s also the signs (Aries is always opposed by Libra), the houses or temples (the 1st is always opposite the 7th, etc) and the aspects of the Dragon too (trines to one part of the Dragon make sextiles to the other part, squares make squares to both ends, and conjunctions to one part are always oppositions to the other half of the Dragon), and in addition to this the rulers of the Head and Tail become involved, which is where the elegant complexity of the nodal tree really expresses itself. For example, someone with the Tail in Taurus might have a pattern with being highly acquisitive (perhaps a hoarder, for example), the Tail might also be in the 6th temple (so now the hoarding becomes about pills and things in the medical cabinet, again for example), it might also be in a square with Mercury in Aquarius (so now they are maybe a hypochondriac thinking there are all kinds of weird things wrong with them), and the ruler of Taurus, Venus, might be in Capricorn (so now everything is super organised) and in a trine with Jupiter in Virgo (so now its all bigger, they know all about the side effects in the fine print, have memorized the safe dosage levels and also probably give large parts of it away). It could manifest in any number of ways, yet this whole complex will still be problematic, it will represent a blockage for that persons psychological growth.
In terms of the karmic factors they signify the difference between Saturn and the Dragon is subtle. With Saturn we are presented with the lessons of time, maturity and responsibility – ultimately it represents a concrete blockage in our psyche of the titanic awareness of our own eternal nature and the journey we make to reclaim that awareness. Its lessons are hard but concrete. It tasks us with the construction of something, be it a material thing, an understanding of the soul, an ability to communicate, a healthy relationship, etc. We first become aware of Saturn at the first Saturn square, at age 7, albeit in an immature form. From that point on we can easily recognise the limitations of Saturn, especially when it is powerfully placed. The focus of the Dragon, however, is on the more ephemeral baggage we come in with and the way we deal with that, having less to do with the slowly growing awareness concerning our mortality as we get older (as the time left in the hourglass shrinks the intention of Saturn is that we focus more and more on what truly matters) and being far less concrete. Its lessons are equally hard but more phantasmal and insubstantial, less amenable to identification (our past lives obscure specifics). It tasks us less with building something and more with shifting our attitude. There is an extensive area of overlap between the two, however, as there are in many things in astrology. A more complete picture of karma comes from studying both together as well as all of the major dynamics in the chart, but focusing on these two parts of it gets to the meat of the matter quickly.
TRUE or MEAN?
Calculation of the nodes is complicated by a controversy over which of two calculations to use (and there is that binary nature again). One method, technically the more accurate method, calculates the nodes using the truer centre of gravity that exists between the Moon and the Earth, which is a non-fixed (drifting) centre about a quarter of the way in (990 miles) towards the centre of Earth. It takes account of the gravitational influence of the Sun and the wobble exerted upon the Earth by the pull of the Moon but it is still a fuzzy or slightly fudged calculation that does not result in a completely ‘true node’, despite the name. The mean node takes a simpler approach of placing the centre of gravity between Moon and Earth at the centre of the Earth itself. The end difference between these two methods of calculation in a chart is only about 1-2°, meaning that it is not usually significant, but at the sign boundaries (29°-0° of the next sign) it makes a giant difference because it changes the sign of the nodes. This means that these people are actually the ones who help us determine which calculation is working. The best case studies are those where the rulers of the possible signs of the Dragon are in very different places (it can be hard to tell the difference between a Tail in Virgo and a Tail in Libra when Mercury and Venus are conjunct in the same sign, for instance). It is often the position of the Tail that is the bigger giveaway here, and in my clients and friends I have found the true node to be the more reliable method. This is also my direct and personal experience as I was born with the Tail at the sign boundary between Leo and Virgo. The key takeaway here though is that unless the nodal axis is at a sign boundary, you don’t really need to worry about which method of calculation you use. Differences in the degree that results are so slight that it only really matters for things like aspects which are in a wide orb (in which case it’s best to focus on those aspects to the nodes that are closer) and the sign position when the nodal axis is at the sign boundary.
POLARISATION, SYMMETRY & KARMA
In the section on the Dragon in The 26 Keys I wrote about its connection to the concept of polarity as expressed through the signs of the zodiac. This is really just the next level up from the Elemental polarisation I described above with Fire/Air and Water/Earth. The binary nature of the Dragon and the zodiac splits the spectrum of the 12 signs into six pairs of signs, each polarity being made of an internalised (energy flows in to the awareness) and externalized expression (out from the awareness), but both signs having a particular theme that expresses both stark differences and uniting principles. I gave these 6 polarities names which describe, for me, the essence of their processes. Below I present some further notes on these polarities:
Aries/Libra: the creative processes, with Aries representing externalization and Libra internalization. The generation and sharing of beauty and power, the relationship of the self with all other forces in the universe. Fighting vs. cooperating, doing it my way vs. following polite social norms, vengeance vs. justice, engaging threat vs. defusing danger. For more on Aries, navigate here, and for Libra, here.
Taurus/Scorpio: the binding processes, with Taurus as the externalization and Scorpio as the internalization. The acquisition and control of things, the forming of deep connection through desire, vow and oath. Safety vs. temptation, status quo vs. transformation, simplicity vs. complexity. For more on Taurus see here, and for Scorpio here.
Gemini/Sagittarius: the informative processes, with Gemini as their internalization and Sagittarius as their externalization. The investigation and exploration of things, the motive power of the universe. Knowledge vs. wisdom, facts vs. ethical and moral considerations, reason vs. intuition, specific vs. general. To read more on Gemini navigate here, and for Sagittarius here.
Cancer/Capricorn: the constructive processes, with Cancer as their internalization and Capricorn as their externalization. The preservation of things for posterity, the building of nests or domains. Indulgence vs. discipline, comfort vs. austerity, nurture vs. nature. More on Cancer can be found here, and on Capricorn over here.
Leo/Aquarius: the emanatory processes, with Leo as their externalization and Aquarius as their internalization. The brilliance of the uniqueness of things, the exploration of the individuals role within the community. Art vs. science, self generated creativity vs. direct inspiration, individualism vs. collectivity, leadership vs. freedom, fame vs. iconoclasm. I have more on Leo over here, and more on Aquarius here.
Virgo/Pisces: the refining processes, with Virgo as their externalization and Pisces as their internalization. The bringing of things to perfection, the sifting of the gross from the subtle. Order vs. chaos, mundane vs. spiritual, proof vs. trust, nobody is perfect vs. unconditional love. Virgo gets more coverage here and there is a deep dive into Pisces here.
It is also worth pointing out here that there is a symmetrical planetary level layered in here too, but only if we ignore the modern planets. Signs ruled by Venus and Mars (Aries/Libra and Taurus/Scorpio) are always polar opposites for reasons that should be fairly clear, Venus being a feminine and Mars being a masculine archetype. Similarly, signs ruled by Mercury and signs ruled by Jupiter are always opposite (Gemini/Sagittarius and Virgo/Pisces) and signs ruled by one of the Lights and Saturn are always opposite (Cancer/Capricorn and Leo/Aquarius). Thus at the planetary level the Dragons principle of polarity describes our karmic situation thusly:
Venus and Mars – the need to strike balance between the feminine and the masculine, or reaction and action, desiring and being desired.
Mercury and Jupiter – the need to strike balance between the mind and the spirit, or reason/intellect and faith/intuition.
The Lights and Saturn – the need to bring balance between the awareness (consciousness) and the universal laws, or self and experience, being and time, life and death.
These are the basic building blocks of karmic experience on the Earth as the Dragon of western astrology sees them, the 2 Elementally based paths, the 3 planetary paths, the 6 archetypal polarities delineated by the signs of our zodiac, which are themselves 12 individual archetypal paths for experience. We can also add the 12 houses, which are divided into 6 polarized pairs like the signs, as the top level. These polarities are focused on twinned experiences available to all beings. For example, the 1st house or temple is about the identity we express when acting alone, while the 7th is about the identity we express when in a partnership or our ability to empathize with other identities, but both the 1st and the 7th are essentially about the experience of identity.
1st/7th temple: Polarity of identification, you/me, controls the experience of identification with things, controls the stability of the identity and the balance between partnering and self sufficiency. For more on the 1st temple navigate here, for the 7th temple see here.
2nd/8th temple: the sensual polarity, holding/releasing, gain and loss, controls the security of the soul and body and the balance between nurturing the physical and the astral. For more on the 2nd temple, navigate here and for the 8th temple see here.
3rd/9th temple: the cognitive polarity, learning/trusting, perspective and truth, controls the ability to process experience into models and patterns and the balance or exchange of concepts between the individual and the universe. For more on the 3rd temple navigate here, and for the 9th temple here.
4th/10th temple: the temporal polarity, past/future, private/public life, background and aspiration, controls our orientation in time and the balance between being grounded and rising to the peak. For more on the 4th temple navigate here and for the 10th temple go here.
5th/11th temple: the artistry (or co-creative) polarity, self satisfaction with creativity/audience appreciation, creation/sharing, controls ability to enrich life and society and the balance between what we have to contribute and the purpose we seek to attain in contributing it. For more on the 5th temple navigate here and for the 11th temple here.
6th/12th temple: the servicing (or essential, as in essence) polarity, civil service/hermits retreat, mundane life/inner life, assisting others through physical acts/praying for others, controls ability to draw essential lessons from life experience and the balance between being here now and transcendent bliss. For more on the 6th temple go here and for the 12th temple navigate here.
At each rising level, from the core Elementally based paths to the experiential polarities of the houses, the complexity, specificity and detail increases:
Fundamental level: Dragon is Magnetic or Electric and expresses polarity and karma in Sun/Moon, North/South, also Fire/Air and Water/Earth.
Planetary path: Dragon expresses polarity and karma in 3 pairs, Lights/Saturn (life/death, being/experience), Mercury/Jupiter (reason/faith, mind/spirit), Venus/Mars (feeling/acting, male/female, desiring/being desired).
Zodiacal Path: Dragon expresses polarity and karma in 6 pairs: Aries/Libra (creative polarity), Taurus/Scorpio (binding polarity), Gemini/Sagittarius (informative polarity), Cancer/Capricorn (constructive polarity), Leo/Aquarius (emanatory polarity), Virgo/Pisces (servicing polarity).
Temple Path: Dragon expresses polarity and karma in 6 pairs: 1st/7th temple (identification experience), 2nd/8th temple (sensual experience), 3rd/9th temple (cognitive experience), 4th/10th temple (temporal or chronological experience), 5th/11th temple (experience of life as artistry), 6th/12th temple (experience of life as service).
Additionally if there are aspects to the Dragon or the rulers of the Dragon these will add further details. However because the Dragon is a binary entity any aspect will be made to both parts of the Dragon and not just one side, even if the orbs are too wide on one side while being narrower on the other. There will be a leaning more towards the more exact aspect, but both aspects will be present at the same time.
Polarities in the aspects of the Dragon
Conjunctions are always paired with oppositions. These aspects are about polarisation and balance and are often therefore more powerful because they are in a resonance with the nature of the Dragon itself.
Squares are always made to both sides of the Dragon. These aspects are about something being held in the balance, something that could go either way, something that has been wagered in life and is potentially at risk but also potentially at a turning point.
Sextiles and trines are always paired, but the trine being a stronger aspect would tend to favour one side more than the other. These aspects are about situations and forces (including people) whose help comes with a price we do not acknowledge or perceive. Some things seem like they are good for us, but they are part of the rot. That rich relative who makes your drug habit easy, for example. These aspects are about uncovering those things and re-purposing them.
If the ruler of the Dragon, a Light or the ruling planet of the ascendant makes an aspect to the Dragon it usually represents ways in which we can be our own worst enemies, but conversely it also offers a way for us to be our own best friend, if we embrace the Dragons Head.
USE IN INTERPRETATION
Why is all this important? Well, first because it shows us what the Dragon is representative of – it’s representative of this polarisation that is expressed throughout all of the astrology in a single chart, it symbolically encapsulates that polarisation at a granular level where we can more easily operate with it in practice. It takes all of the above and distills it into two places in the zodiac, places which represent the Gordian knot where all of the above gathers and is focused. The nexus of the Dragon in a chart is like the naval in the middle of your body, it marks a place in your astral body where you inherit the power to be your own person, to bring your life into balance by gathering it into a focal point that will empower you.
The Dragon is a powerful tool that helps you to contextualize the chart and to sharpen your focus, eliminating some of the fuzziness that comes when playing with a symbolic system. You use it in the beginning for this reason, as a kind of focusing tool before diving in. Here is how you do that.
First, take note of the position of the Dragon, noting its signs. Have a way to make some notes as you go. Start with the Tail and follow all the steps through to the end, then start over with the Head. Normally there is a golden rule in astrology – never overemphasise the negative, always focus on the positive potential. With the Tail, however, we need to break this golden rule as the qualities connected to it are things that are problematic by nature, even though they probably do not feel like it. They represent a stock or abundance of something (causes) that karmically speaking we have brought with us to give away, not to profit from. So when running through the list below, bear this in mind and feel free to walk a little bit more on the dark side. On the other hand, do the exact opposite with the Head, focusing heavily on its positive potentials and traits (as effects and attitudes to strive for).
1) Note the Element. Refer to the Elemental/Fluid Polarities section, above. Make a note about where the emphasis lies e.g. “Tail is Electric/Fire, emphasis is on development of the will and acting on impulse”. This is the fundamental level.
2) Note the planet that rules the sign. Refer to the Planetary Polarities summary, above. Make a note about where the emphasis lies at the planetary level e.g. “ruled by Mars, emphasis on masculinity, male approach and desiring, everything connected with Mars in the chart”. Here you can also make a note about the position of that planet in the chart, e.g. “Mars is in Virgo in the 1st”. This can help you add more detail if you wish.
3) Note the sign. Refer to Zodiacal Polarities, above, and make a note about the emphasis. For example, “Aries, the creative polarity, emphasis on external expression, generation of power, confrontational or direct relationship of the self with all other forces in the universe, especially adverse ones. Aggressive, bullish or warrior like energy”. If you added the extra level of detail in the previous step, do so again here, for example “Virgo, the refining processes, with emphasis on externalization, the bringing of things to perfection, the sifting of the gross from the subtle, analysis paralysis, skepticism, criticism, support/assistance, purity or quality control”.
4) Note the temple. Refer to Temple Polarities, above, and make a note about the emphasis. For example “8th temple, the sensual polarity, holding/releasing, gain and loss, balance between nurturing the physical and the astral, 8th emphasises debt, legacy, taxation, the transformative power and flow of energy, relationship between astral and physical security”. Again, if you added the extra level in the previous steps do so again here, for example “1st temple, identification polarity, emphasis is on the self (1st) instead of the other (7th). Direct, pushy, in your face Mars in Virgo energy, shrewd sharpness, hypercritical/fussy, interfering, forcefulness, strong identity”.
5) Review your material. Then go back to the chart and apply your notes to your initial assessment of the chart, i.e. evaluate the Sun and Moon and ascendant (and then the rest) in the context of what you have been told by the Dragon. Take note of the astrological aspects of the part of the Dragon you just reviewed and the aspects of its ruler. Write these details down with some notes. For example, “Aries Tail (in early Aries) is in an ‘out of sign’ sextile with Sun and Midheaven in late Taurus. Gives strong acquisitive and material ambitions. Mars in Virgo is trine the Sun and Midheaven, giving even more emphasis towards the ambitions and material goals”.
Look for patterns and reinforcements of themes. The patterns that repeat at different levels using different symbols are like neon signposts alerting you to the importance of those factors. Thats really all you need to do, just keep all your notes handy when you interpret the chart and use them to sharpen and focus that interpretation, remembering that everything connected with the Tail is about things we need to outgrow and just give away to others while everything connected to the Head is about things we need to lean into and focus on if we want to see more success in life. Sometimes you will find there is an overlap between things connected to the Tail and things connected to the Head and you will have to unpick that with your subject matter in order to unravel the details (usually it means something need to be regenerated or transformed), but more often there is a clear difference between the two. By the way, the example I used above was from a real chart for the New York Stock Exchange:
The Head in Libra indicates it must strive for fairness, an equitable balance, a weighing of things, but can you imagine what a powerful and positive force the NYSE would be if it had a social conscience (having leaned into a chivalrous and empathetic but still pragmatic and grounded Libra Head ruled by Venus exalted in Taurus)? Such a meditation is a good illustration of what the Head offers and also of the scale and scope of the difficulties faced when dealing with it.
It is a Dragon, after all.